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Tomorrow we begin our month-long interdisciplinary apple unit, so today marked our last “non-thematic” day of preschool for at least the next month.

We started with a pattern tray, using our tessellations.

She was asked to put the next piece in the pattern on the other side of the kitchen twine. We love pattern recognition work as a mind-training tool. Pattern recognition, we believe, is fundamental to learning and understanding all disciplines. Math, science, language, art, music… Strong pattern recognition helps us to see the ways in which all of these disciplines are entwined. Even to navigate life, or to have an awareness of self or human nature, we have to be able to see the underlying deep patterns in thoughts and behaviors, yes?  But for now, we’ll start with tessellations. 😉

After working on completing the patterns, she had some paper and a pencil nearby to do some free tracing of her tessellation tiles.

After this tray, I gave her the whiteboard with three addition equations and multiple choice answers, as well as a whiteboard marker and her counters. My intention was that she work on these as a math “warm-up” on her own (she knows the process for solving addition problems), and that I would use that time to read to Eric and enrich him. Let me say, I am still working on getting Katie to work independently for short bursts. She loves one-on-one, and she searches for validation at each step. My biggest challenge is teaching her this: I want her to know how and when to validate herself, when to check her work for precision, and to have confidence in knowing the process. It turns out: that challenge is bigger than the challenge of teaching her math. I think the trick with home school is to get the child to be comfortable working both one-on-one and without direct instruction for warm-ups. Children at school learn this—due to the sheer population in classes—very quickly. How to teach it at home?

After math (we worked several sums), we moved onto science:

I have almost no pictures for our science experiment today. I taught Katie the term “hypothesis” and how it means “a prediction based on evidence” or “what we think will happen.” The second definition is more kid-friendly, but I am a big believer in giving both the kid-friendly definition of any term as well as a more elevated one. It never hurts, and can only be to a student’s advantage later.

We asked “Where will an ice cube melt the fastest? Outside, in the kitchen, or in the refrigerator?” Okay, this question is a bit awkward because it is a little bit leading…but we were working it through together. We wrote this question in her nature journal/field notebook.

She made her hypothesis (also written in the journal): “I think it will melt outside the fastest.”

Then we designed an experiment in her notebook. Step 1) Set up three bowls of ice: one outside, one on the kitchen table, and one in the refrigerator.” 2) Record the temperature of each place.

Then we looked at the thermostat for the house, the fridge thermometer we have, and the Weather Channel app on the iPad. We recorded all the temperatures.

We set up the ice in bowls, and we talked about the importance of using ice that is all the same size and bowls that are all the same kind, in order to limit the variables. We put the bowls in place, and we spent the next many minutes running between the house and the outdoors checking them, though we agreed not to check on the one in the fridge (since opening the door would introduce warmer air—a variable that would throw off the experiment) until the end of the experiment.

The ice cube outside melted first.

Katie dictated the conclusion: “My hypothesis was the best. The one outside melted because of the sun. The one in the refrigerator wasn’t melting very fast. Next, we should put it in the shade and one in the sun.”

I prompted her to come up with a “next” sort of related experiment, because I think that science experiment write-ups should always include a suggestion for the next level of inquiry, a progression, a call to ourselves or to other scientists. Dr. Handwerker, my 8th grade science teacher, was the first to broach this idea with me as a student. He was an awesome science teacher, by the way, one of my favorite teachers EVER in any subject—so a big shout-out to him. Totally inspiring, you know?

While Eric napped, Katie and I made challah:


And we made marmalade. I began this project yesterday, as the recipe calls for a two-day process. Marmalade is one of my favorite food items, and it can be so expensive. I often see it for close to $5.00. I estimate that these nine jars cost between $1.00 and $1.50 each, with the most expensive ingredient being the sugar (and only because I happened to buy it at Baron’s rather than Ralphs). You see in this picture that one jar is a bit shy—that’s because we have already gobbled a bunch of it on our challah. YUMMMMMMMM squared.

We read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and worked in some logic puzzle workbooks until Eric woke up. Then it was lunchtime for him and time for….

Making an apple basket!

We’re starting our apple unit tomorrow, and I don’t care if it is almost 80 degrees out—it is officially autumn to me. 😉 It is time for apples and fall leaves in my magical world. So an apple basket it was.

Katie (with Eric’s help—he was mostly trying to eat the fake fruit and leaving teeth marks everywhere) arranged this herself, with very conscious minimum input from me. I helped by wire cutting and hot gluing, but she chose the placement and stuck in the flowers and fruit where she intended them to be.

We replaced our summery “M” wreath with something apple-inspired.

In other beautiful news today, my best friend Rosa delivered her son Nolan this afternoon after a 28-hour labor. He was 8.9 pounds and 20.5 (I have to double check that to be sure) inches long. He is here, and I cannot wait to meet him. Snuggling with those cuddly newborn bodies and memorizing every detail of them on the first night is total magic. It goes by way too fast.  I hope she is having a beautiful night with her firstborn!

In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Fred and George Weasley invent Extendable Ears in order to overhear important conversations among the adults of the novel. For those who are fans of the series, you will know that this device is one of many of the Weasley twins’ inventions, and you will also recall that Harry hears significant information via the Extendable Ears while visiting Arthur Weasley in St. Mungo’s Hospital.

The Extendable Ears are a magical device: two ear-shaped listening pieces attached with a magic-infused string that directs one end of the device toward closed doors or down the stairs of the Order’s headquarters at Grimmauld Place.

Our question: How would we, as Muggles (non-wizard folk, in the parlance of the series), make a similar device?

Solution? The tin can phone, beloved childhood science classic. Two tin cans, a nail and hammer, and kitchen twine. We can hear each other because our voice causes the air to vibrate, and these vibrations travel along the twine. Simple, elegant, very cool. A little bit of science to connect to our current literature… What is the science behind the magic? We must always ask ourselves this question, yes?

To make the phones:

The kiddos used Sharpies to decorate the tin soup cans. I let Eric do this, too, guiding his hand just a bit to keep the Sharpie aimed at the can. I did end up with red Sharpie on my temple and my left shoulder nonetheless.

After this step, we made holes in the bottom of the can with a hammer and nail.

Oh, I forgot to mention that, prior to turning the kiddos loose with the cans, I used duct tape to cover over the open edge and any sharp parts that might exist. We don’t want boo-boos around here!

We threaded some twine through both holes, tied knots, and ta-da! A tin can phone!

Katie hangs out in the chair while I am at the other end. I think tomorrow we might try a longer piece of twine and see how far apart we can be outdoors.

Eric’s turn!

This turned out to be easy, free (we had all supplies on-hand), and relevant, with a big playtime pay-off. Fun!

Even for a 5th generation Californian who loves to be outside, this heat wave has been a bit intense. I have been keeping the kiddos mostly indoors, with recesses in the morning and later in the early evening; however, we wrapped up our preschool lessons early today finding ourselves all a bit stir crazy. Braving a bit of the heat, we went outside with the sole purpose of getting as wet as we could—and we did!

It’s Friday!

Although we’ve been schooling throughout the summer, this week was our formal “Back to Home School” week for the McGaugh Academy. I planned out our lessons before the week began, and I am approaching our classroom at home with the same work ethic and rigor with which I went to work at TVHS. Knowing we are, at this point, accountable only to ourselves, I feel the extra responsibility of making sure that I adhere as much as possible to a schedule and plan out curriculum in advance.

Why start in August? Well, Bill is already back to work, so it makes sense that we all are. Also, I wanted to use these last two weeks of August primarily to establish a routine and get the wheels greased so that by September, we are rolling along more smoothly. I have a huge multi-disciplinary apple unit planned for September, and I am totally, terribly excited about it. I want to make the most of that unit by having our back-to-home-school kinks worked out beforehand.

Our schedule includes three three-hour days of preschool: Mondays, Wednesdays, and a floating day (usually Friday or Saturday). Why a floating day? Well, our family is our priority, and there will be opportunities to spend time with Nana and cousins at the end of almost every week. We also have Friday music classes starting up again. Yes, that is part of our preschooling, yet with driving time, we won’t really be able to fit in all of our preschooling hours on Friday mornings. I still have to work that out, but I know I can make up hours on the weekend, too.

Above our preschooling curriculum and our music class, I hope to have one field trip/enrichment day a week. An enrichment day does not need to be a field trip, nor does it need to be set curriculum. This week, our enrichment day happened to be a trip to the science museum. Other days it might include making a puppet show, or throwing a birthday party for the stuffed doggies, or playing an extended role play game: librarian, banker, grocer, etc.

So it was “Back to Home School” for us this week!

On Monday morning, Katie colored her “Back to HOME School” bus and glued on the wheels.

One of her Montessori trays was a water transfer activity. We used the glass milk bottles from Eric’s party, and she used the baster to suck up the water from one bottle and squeeze it into the other.

Dexterity and movements/concepts typical in a science lab.

Another tray: using a cutting board and plastic knife to slice up a banana for herself and for Brother. I gave her the instruction to cut the banana in half, and she did (fractions). Then she cut hers into slices and put them in a bowl, and she cut Brother’s half into chunks and put those pieces into his bowl. What a good helper.

Katie’s favorite tray this week: hot chocolate preparation. I surprised her with this, and she has mentioned it all week since. She had to open the packet and pour in the milk from the pitcher.

We love our Montessori practical life trays! I really wish I would have started these with her last year (between ages 2.5 and 3).

I try to get Eric involved in our lessons as much as possible. He made his first finger-painting this week!

One of science tasks this week was to make a bug box. We used the big box our wedding album arrived in and some styrofoam and t-pins I happened to have. Boppa caught a big beetle in his backyard, so we have our first official specimen.

We hope to add more! An ongoing project…

Our study of bugs has been fun, and even as we get ready to transition into apple science this next month and other aspects of botany, I know we will keep observing, collecting, and writing about our bugs. This morning, I showed Katie part of the French documentary Microcosmos, which shows the life of insects up close. It is a beautiful film, one of my favorites. I think it is important to use our mixed media as much as possible in our home school units. Katie really loved it, too.

We avail ourselves frequently of our Melissa & Doug products, like this spelling tray. We love this puzzle. Melissa & Doug “toys” are, for me, the go-to brand for Montessori-inspired teaching toys. We have several of their products, and I use them to help transition from one activity to the next, or to buy me some time to do things like make breakfast or give Eric personal time, or even to teach Eric. Our cousin gave Eric a beautiful wooden shape sorter puzzle for his birthday, and he has been working on sorting shapes this week and the precision of actually putting them into the right places with his little fingers.

Katie mentioned wanting to make another fairy house (like we made with my mom in April) for her dollies. I found a box in the garage, we cut a flap-window in the back, and then I gave Katie some fabric scraps. She cut them and started gluing the textiles onto the box in different patterns. We haven’t finished this project yet… We used some rosemary and Play-Doh to make a little stand-up tree inside of it, and we’re waiting for the right moment to go collect more items outdoors. Plus, yesterday got very pleasantly busy. We might make more headway on this tomorrow.

We loved our field trip to Pennypickle’s Workshop. Here is Katie in the time machine.

We also did our ice excavation science project this week.

And we used our new field notebook to make notes about our spider’s web experiment and how many webs we found in the yard.

Other than this, we worked out of our spelling and sight words and phonics workbooks, made more progress in the 5th Harry Potter, read to Eric, played, had music and dance sessions, cooked together, took walks, and worked math sums. It has been a busy first week back, I must say!

Next week, we’ll finish some projects I’ve had in my head this summer, and on Friday we’ll kick off our Apple-a-Day unit. Can’t wait! Teaching is fun!

When I really want to geek-out, which is most of the time, I write curriculum in my head. I was born to be a teacher, to be among teachers; I love everything about being a teacher. Even though I am not in my classroom right now, I still feel I have a claim on a classroom. Even though I am on a leave from my profession to be at home, it is still my profession. I suspect this is much the same way my mom feels about being a nurse, still a registered nurse. Once a teacher, always a teacher. It is a way of looking at the whole world and the information in it.

I pour my passion for teaching onto my own children right now. To me, being a mother IS being a teacher. I do best at mothering when I remember that, at its essence, mothering is teaching. It is when I forget this fact that I fall down as a mother. I sometimes forget quite a bit, but then I recover myself and remember.

This morning an incredibly special person in my life visited our home for breakfast. The kiddos know Mrs. Kathy Altaras primarily as the woman who made our annual Christmas scrapbook (as a wedding shower gift) that we paste our favorite Christmas pictures into each year; yet, Mrs. Altaras is so much more than that, to me. I first knew her as my English teacher, one who challenged and pushed me and made the whole world bright through her own passion for being in front of our class everyday. Later, she became a colleague and mentor who helped me to improve my own pedagogy. In recent years, she has been a friend who constantly inspires me with her creativity, fearlessness, and zest for squeezing all the beautiful and productive moments out of life that she can.

She travels the world, reads avidly, makes scrapbooks, writes, and pursues many diverse interests.

A few years ago, she started a publishing company (Aquila Media) which has published several books.

She keeps her mind engaged, not just in literature, but in everything.

As a teacher, she was one of the first to show me that a truly curious mind interconnects everything. We didn’t study only literature in her Advanced English 10 class. We studied philosophy, time, math, science, social science. She understood how exciting it is to break down walls among disciplines, to thirst for connections. When I am asked why I became a teacher, she is one of the people I credit as my inspiration.

And she came to my house for breakfast today! I am still geeky enough, too, to look up to my mentors and former teachers, even when we are now friends and equals. I remember the time Mrs. Cutler came over for an Academic Decathlon practice in my senior year, and Rosa and I spent all day preparing—it was much better than Christmas, let me tell you: a teacher of mine in my house. When a teacher comes over, the excitement is from the well of respect that I have for her. Even though I am a teacher, and even though I consider myself a peer, I still get the bubbly feeling over it.

Although we keep in touch, it was just so nice to see Kathy in person, all the way from Texas. She truly is one of my favorite people. She has that spark of life, you know? Life is to be lived, you get that from her.

And how much fun was it to talk about curriculum with her? We see curriculum in the same interdisciplinary way. We share a passion for designing it. It felt so renewing to share time with someone who loves that creative outlet.

I was thinking later, as I went out to lunch with my brother and my parents at Claim Jumper today, why is curriculum design my hobby? In high school, my hobby (after I was done with my homework) was to sit down with my dictionaries and etymology books and study word histories for hours on end. Now when I have free time before bed or during the kiddos’ naps, if I am not sewing or scrapbooking, I am lesson planning—sometimes for Katie, sometimes just for fun.  Why is it fun?

Lesson planning is the ultimate entertainment for me. When I was much younger, I wanted to be a spy and kept a spy notebook with my cousin. I wanted to grow up and decode things, and I also made my own codes all the time. Teaching is the process of decoding. I think of all the information in the universe. If we could find a way to look at it all thematically (as opposed to separated by discipline), then we could break it down into its fundamental bits and put it into small enough chunks for everyone to understand. I love looking at a big subject and thinking of all the ways “into” it. I love the patterns that information makes. Think about how much progress we could make if we could find innovative ways to transmit those information packets.

As if I hadn’t geeked out enough by lunchtime, after lunch I decided to visit friends at the TVHS book club. It was truly a reunion of sorts, teachers both past and present. Oh my goodness. That campus will always feel like home to me. If only I could make two of myself (one to stay with my children and one to be in my classroom), I would be back to teaching at TVHS in a heartbeat. I ran into several people coming and going, also, including the colleague-who-was-never-actually-my-colleague-but-it-feels-like-we’ve-known-each-other-forever Jen Ruby. When I think about going back to my classroom at TV, one of the exciting parts of that would be getting to teach alongside of her. She came on board right after I went on leave, and I find her so inspiring. Even just a little bit today, we got to talk about lesson plans for The Scarlet Letter. I can imagine a full-unit brainstorm session with her; we would both bring the creativity energy out in each other and walk away with magic, I know it. Friends and colleagues like that are the stuff of dreams.

Today I got to indulge my favorite part of myself with several people that I both admire and love. What a gift. I appreciate the instant camaraderie I feel with the TVHS staff, one of them, part of the happy vibe teachers have when we all get together in a room. What an invigorating day!

Ever wonder why it is that all kinds of insects stick to a spider’s web yet the spider moves about freely? Yeah, so did we! And in a summer filled with the study of insects and spiders, this was a perfect question to address at the McGaugh Academy this week.

And when we wonder, or want to know why and how come, it is time for a science experiment!

Courtesy of a special edition of Disney’s Family Fun magazine (currently on newsstands), I found a simple experiment, which we replicated today.

We made a web on construction paper using double-sided sticky tape. Once the tape-web was made, we put out fingers on it. Yup, stuck. We had fun doing that for awhile, and then…

We dipped our fingers in a little bowl of cooking oil. We discovered that oiled fingers can glide right over the sticky tape. Hm.

It turns out that spiders have two means of not sticking to their webs. First, not every strand of their web is sticky, and spiders have a “memory” for which strands are sticky and which are not. Second, and most germane to our experiment: spiders coat their legs in a bit of natural oil, allowing them to glide about freely.

Neat-o, huh?

To extend the lesson beyond the experiment, we used our field notebook, a.k.a. “Katie’s Nature Journal” as she wrote (with me giving her the letters, of course) on her title page. We dated the entry, she drew a picture of a spider, we answered three questions about facts we learned through our experiment, we saved a space to glue a picture of the experiment, and then we made a box in which to gather data. For our data, we chose to make a tally of how many webs we all could find in the backyard this morning. (We found eight, before Eric wanted his nap).

The little people look for spider webs this morning.

Making a tally in her field notebook/nature journal.

I am sure we’re going to get quite a bit of use out of this nature journal. It is possible to do a small entry daily, even taping in things like pretty leaves or unusual finds, or making a note about which birds we see, or if we see the Eastern Swallowtail that likes to fly through the yard. Nature is an infinite source of learning and awe. I love how we can teach our children to zoom in and pay attention to all the beautiful details, to let that awe and wonder create lasting passion in them, an endless curiosity.

We could also repeat the spider web tally monthly on the same date, and if we gathered enough data points, we could graph the results and see when spider webs are most prevalent.

Always learning is always living.

I love raising my children in Temecula, California. I have always loved living here, both as an involved teenager (Assisteens, Interact, Student of the Year, etc.)  and then as a college student visiting on holiday from Stanford; yet it has only been as a mother that I have started to discover how vast the city’s educational and recreational resources really are. For a city that manages it expansion intelligently with an eye toward attracting the businesses of a sophisticated cosmopolitan city, Temecula also somehow retains a certain “small town” feel with its traditions. I adore this city, especially as a place to have a family. I could go on and on about the ice skating rink, the Temecula Western Days, the Mystery Weekend (which we have played most years), blueberry picking, the live theater, movies in the park, art classes, toddler classes, square dancing, the delicious food at the wineries, the farmer’s market on Saturday, the splash park, the Balloon and Wine Festival, firework shows, the Valley Winds concerts… There is always something to do here, something to experience. I love, too, that I can easily reach mountains or the beach with just a bit of a drive. I am close to Los Angeles, San Diego, and Disneyland. Temecula is a great city, I really believe that.

One of the best kid-centered resources in Temecula is Dr. Pennypickle’s Workshop, a children’s science museum in Old Town. The premise of the museum is that Dr. Pennypickle is an inventor and scientist and that the museum is his house. The museum has rooms like the kitchen, the music room, the bathroom, the mud room, and more. In the library there is a time machine, and then the fireplace opens up, and everyone can wander through a maze bathed in ultraviolet light. There are inventions, gadgets, contraptions, dials, buttons, repurposed antiques, experiments, and whimsy everywhere. I do not fully know the history behind the design of this museum, but I do know that the minds behind it are genius. I wish I could describe what it all looks like, how truly inventive the use of everyday items really is.  I can’t keep my hands off things—and I am an adult. Fortunately, everything is made for touching and exploring. I feel like a child myself when I am there. The whole museum invites curiosity. The whimsy speaks to me also: an old, old Singer sewing machine made into a record player? Yes. Vintage typewriters? Displays of vintage games and toys and books? A wall dedicated to turning gears? I love this place.

The best part? The children can grow with it. There is something for every age there. And, they also offer home school days during the fall on Tuesday with a science curriculum. Katie, I have felt, has been too young for most of the programs held there (Dr. Pennypickle himself often visits), but she might be getting to a good age for participating in those.

Katie was super excited that we had a field trip planned there today. I wasn’t sure what Eric would think, but oh my, he was in paradise, too. He loved exploring and touching everything.

The museum also has helpers who demonstrate science facts, such as this morning’s lesson on polymers. I love, love, love the teaching component here.

Sorry that some of these pictures are blurry. My camera is persnickety in indoor lighting, and I didn’t have a chance to fiddle with it because I was enjoying the museum too much!

There is a hot air balloon basket in the entryway!

Eric loved this. He liked turning the old wheel. They both liked the periscope, also.

This was Eric’s favorite activity, one which he could have done all day I think.

He understood that stepping on the pedal made the red ball balance on a stream of air.

My mom played in the kitchen.

A lesson on magnetism in the kitchen sink!

For better pictures, click my link to the Pennypickle’s website and view the photo gallery. You will get a much better sense of what the rooms really look like!

Ice on a hot summer day? Sounds great to me!

I have seen this activity on at least three different blogs this month, so I make no claims to being original with this fun lesson plan (though this write up and the objectives are my own). Still, this activity  is so easy and perfect for these last summer days that I thought I would post it and pass along the idea.



1) Students will be able to identify methods for melting ice and apply those methods in a hands-on activity.

2) Students will have a working knowledge of the terms “excavation” and “archaeologist” and “fossil record” (This seems ambitious, but Katie and I have played “archaeologist” many times since she was a little older than Eric—I would bury her toys in the sand, and she would unearth them, a favorite game we invented one day—and she knows about the importance of fossils)


Small toys

Tupperware container (with or without lid—it doesn’t matter)


Salt in a bowl

Spray bottle filled with warm water

Toddler fork/scraper

The night before doing this activity, we froze small toys in a container of water. By the next morning, it was ready to go.

Katie and Eric with their tray of tools.

We talked about how the salt lowers the freezing point of the ice and how the warm water changes the temperature on the surface of the ice as well. Of course we also pointed out how doing this outside allowed the sun to help us, too!

The kiddos get to work. Katie uses the spray bottle and Eric uses his fork. (Hi Bill, yes this was highly supervised—no poking of his eyeballs!)

Eric tries the spray bottle and Katie applies some salt.

This was half-way through the excavation. Eric laughs as Katie drops the big ice block to shatter some of the ice.

I loved this activity. Both kiddos enjoyed themselves, and it was delightful to be outside. The science  (chemistry and archaeology) was straightforward, age appropriate, and fun. Katie especially loved trying out all of the tools, and we observed and felt how the ice changed on the parts where we added the salt. As a bonus, the kiddos loved playing with the ice shards after all the toys were excavated. We used the ice to write and draw on the concrete. This is an activity with mileage and natural kid-appeal: we were at it for almost forty-five minutes, and none of us tired of it. Ice excavation is definitely going to be a repeat project next summer.

Now that the bustle surrounding Eric’s party has given way to the calm flow of daily life, and now that his thank you notes are almost finished, and now that I have finished a bit of editing on a children’s book project by a former student and current UCLA Bruin, we are finding our footing with our consistent schooling once again.

Katie and I are really starting to get into a good groove together. She works best with her initial burst of energy when she wakes up in the morning (we usually read or do something lower key so that I, too, can finish waking up with my tea); and then she has another burst of focus after she has been fed, watered, and exercised. It has been a bit warm this week for morning walks, although we’ve tried nonetheless, water and spray water bottles in hand. We had a beautiful afternoon walk today. Eric’s naptime is also a golden time of learning for us. Katie and I can focus and get  much done in a relatively short period of time. One huge advantage of home school? Efficiency.

This week we finished up our first lessons on telling time. She can now tell/name/read the hour: 1:00, 2:00, 3:00, etc. She knows that the minute and hour hand both pointing to the “12” indicates three different names: “Twelve o’clock,” “noon,” or “midnight.” She can identify the minute and hour hand, and she can arrange them on our practice clock to point to the hours. This week (and beginning today), we are working on reading the half-past position of the clock: “7:30, 8:30, 9:30, etc). It is trickier, of course, because of the fact that the hour hand is positioned between two numbers when it is half-past.

Math has also been going well this week, as we continue our studies of addition. I have finally found a set of best practices with my daughter, and she loves math. We make good use of our mini white board and our counters. She knows how to read an addition equation, how to read the “+” as “plus” and the “=” as “equals.” I also have her make sums for me. She is still learning how to write all of her numerals, but she is almost there, and she can write little sums on the white board. Teaching math is extremely exciting. I always intended, if I stayed on at  a school, to get my math credential someday (I adore mathematics) and my Master’s in…well, in something. Math, like anything else, is just another language, with both literal and abstract properties that we can learn to work in and think in. It is fun, fun, fun to teach it. Such a pure and beautiful language.

We’ve also been working out of our reading comp workbook, practicing our listening to passages, inferring, and reasoning skills. I love watching her mind infer. We do this workbook in between more challenging activities, because she has so much fun with this. Her reading comp and reasoning ability is truly fierce. My biggest concern is to keep challenging her, one of the reasons why we are reading the Harry Potter series together (we are still on the 5th book).

We are finishing up several of our Kindergarten level and pre-K level activity books. We work on a few pages almost every day. Things like matching, pattern recognition, spotting differences, identifying initial letter sounds, circling the rhyming words, counting… We’re coming to a conclusion on these books. They build her confidence, and she often pulls them out and asks to work on them. So cool to watch the love of learning and self-drive bubbling in her! A big objective for this coming year is to keep working on the dexterity part of her writing of numbers and letters.

She also has a “sight words” workbook that we do, about  page a day, as well as a phonics workbook. She is starting to read a few sight words on her own, as well as words like “cat” and “dog” which we have practiced and sounded out oodles of times. I get so excited when she reads a word on her own. I know we are in striking distance of gaining momentum on our reading. That is our most important objective for this next school year.

Art this week was to make bracelets using my bead stash (from when I used to make jewelry). She has been asking to do this, and I have wondered whether her little fingers could grasp those teeny tiny beads. I finally agreed, and she made two bracelets in about half an hour, stringing them all herself. I used my jewelry tools to affix the clasps, jump rings, and such. She had a great time and has been asking to make more bracelets for herself.

Can’t say we’ve hit science too well this week… Oh wait, wait! We went on a field trip to the Wild Animal (Safari) Park. That counts, right? Ah well, I need to figure out our next science units.

Cooking is also science, and we did much of that together today:

Katie adds ingredients to our red spaghetti sauce (I made ours vegetarian, and bulked it up with minced carrots, golden carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower to be the consistency of a bolognese). We love homemade sauce, and it is never too early to teach the base of the family recipe!

Katie picks fresh basil from our garden to use in our sauce. We also put in some rosemary from our garden this time (don’t usually, but I’ve been craving it). Our basil is really small this year, and last year it was huge. Not sure why…it is in the same spot, with the same gardeners (us). Oh well, it was enough for the sauce!

She also helped me to make (while Eric napped) the dough for a yeast-risen oatmeal molasses bread. We love talking about the yeast and proofing it and watching it rise under the right conditions of warmth. Katie loves to cook, and it always connects us. It is one of our great bonding activity, always putting us in harmony with each other. It fills her heart up, and often when we’re cooking together, she talks about how happy she is. We put the dough in the loaf pan on the windowsill to rise, and then the three of us (Katie, Eric, and I) went for a delicious afternoon walk, picking up fallen crepe myrtle blossoms from the sidewalk.

And finally, here is a picture Mr. Eric took of Katie a few days ago. I steadied the camera and helped him get the click all the way down, but otherwise, this was his own work. 🙂 What a pretty sister he has!

I’ve known Lauren Bier since our undergrad days at Stanford and our membership in the philanthropic club APhiO on campus. We’ve reconnected over the past two or so years over Facebook—what a help our social media is to friendships, no? She studies law in Pennsylvania and before that was an elementary school teacher in North Carolina. We connect, obviously, through a range of interests, yet one of the parts that I love most is that we connect through a genuine love of learning and excitement about all there is in life to experience, do, understand, and teach. I think of the many, many beautiful parts about having gone to Stanford, one of the most palpable is a sort of energetic connection among so many of the alums, both old and young, our year or not our year. Stanford is a gift that keeps giving in that respect. I value that even moreso in my 30s than I did in my 20s.

It was fun catching up in person and also reminiscing about our undergrad days, the feel of the campus, people we know in common,  thinking about how exciting it is that Lauren gets to be enrolled in a very full fall term in her law school classes, and comparing notes about our teaching experiences.

Katie took to Lauren right away, holding her hand, swinging along, happy. Sometimes Katie would ask, “Where is our friend?” if she didn’t see her right away. I love watching Katie connect to others; interestingly, she is often more at ease with my friends than she is with other children. Thank you, Lauren, for being a great role model and for being so open toward my children today.

Although it turned out to be a bit of a scorcher for Safari Park today (I keep wanting to call it the Wild Animal Park, in my rebellious nature), the park had merciful moments of shade, misters, and a miniature splash park near the lions. Both the kiddos were troopers; Katie walked nearly everywhere, talking a couple of stroller breaks. Many of the animals were more restful today, but we did catch a peep of the gorillas, meerkats, and others. The best viewing, by far, was on our tram ride. I taught Eric how to say, “Hello animals” before we left this morning, and as I buckled him up in the car, he was waving both hands and trying to say it. I only heard “a-mal” once today, and “hello” sounds that were a bit iffy—but he got the point of waving to them. He liked waving to the giraffes..(I feel I need to say here that I am no longer certain this word takes the “s” for the plural—I need to research this. It seemed to me that “giraffe” was both the singular and plural noun from the tram driver today at the park).  Anyway, he liked waving to them the best.

He laughed at the meerkats.

Lauren and Katie observing the lionesses


On the tram, with a very blurry rhino in the background

Katie bought some lorikeet nectar on her own and waited for the change

Taking the nectar ticket she bought to the lady, she put it on the counter and said, “One nectar please!” with so much more self-assurance than I normally have!

Lauren helps to feed the lorikeets

The petting kraal was full of goats, one of our favorites!

Eric was pleased as punch to be with these goats. He wasn’t afraid at all to pet them; in fact, when it was time to go, he did “baby floppy arms” to escape my grasp and gave the kind of wail we almost never hear from him. I think he wanted to visit with the goats much longer!

Thank you for the fun camaraderie today, Lauren! Thank you for thinking of us on your trip west. We’d love to see you anytime!

Of all the Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals I adore, which would be all of them, Oklahoma! is truly among my favorites. Sunny, optimistic, humorous, cheerful, and a bit wry, Oklahoma! also has one of their finest scores, certainly one of the most clever in parts. Like all good comedy, there is a darkness that underlies the plot and themes, and I think it is the tension between the darkness and the hearty, unflinching optimism that makes this particular musical so enjoyable for me.

We had a grandma-mother-daughter date to our local theater to see the musical performed live this afternoon. The recent high school graduate who played Ado Annie was amazing. She nailed the character. Gloria Grahame, who played Ado Annie in the 1955 film, set a high standard of performance, and today’s young lady was nearly there. I thought she was a gifted young actress and singer, to be sure. She somewhat stole the show for me, though to be sure I enjoyed all of the extremely capable principals. I’ve never seen the stage version, which included two additional songs that I had never heard. One, sung by Jud Fry immediately following “Pore Jud is Daid,” actually brought a more intense degree of menace to the plot.

Before the show

Sweet Katie

Twirling with Amie

In the theater before the show


Although we went to the matinee, it was later than we supposed by the time we got home, so it was straight into our bath and dinner routine. With a bit of daylight still left before heading to bed, right as the sun hovered in mid-set, we went outside in our jammies to water, swing, and look for the rising moon. I am still able to wear Eric in Bjorn carrier, which was just as well since we’ve  a bit of a mysterious muddy patch in our backyard and he was newly bathed. We have a certain long two-person swing on our swingset, and Katie has been loving to use this singly the past few days. We pretend it is her Firebolt (Harry Potter reference), and that she is playing in a Quidditch match. I call out some of the plays, and of course, she is on the Gryffindor team. She likes me to throw our bouncy balls at her like bludgers.

After watering and swinging, we wandered into the front yard to see if we could see the moon rising yet. No, but our neighbor Rita did come outside (in her jammies, too, which made it all so cozy), and we discussed the art of making cheese together, which she has been doing frequently. She uses a simple recipe, which I am inspired to try!

Then it was off to bed and a cuddly reading of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. We just started it two days ago, and we’re over a hundred pages into it already. We’re having such a fun time with this series.

This morning the kiddos both helped to make sweet potato oatmeal crumble muffins. Eric’s language picked up this weekend, another uptick, with more words enunciated (“water”, “I need”, “good job” etc). I remember that Katie’s language started erupting around one-year-old as well. Can’t wait to see what else our little man has to say! His other cutest-thing-ever that he did this weekend? Playing pat-a-cake with me without me moving his hands for him. He claps and rolls his hands (still working on poking and marking-with-a-B). I’ve also had many rounds of hide-n-seek with the kiddos this weekend, and he thinks he is hiding just by putting his head down so he can’t see me. Cute, or what???

Hope everyone else had a beautiful weekend out there!